Uncertainty surrounding Trans-Nullarbor transport may hold the key to a prestigious pair of Tabcorp Park features this weekend. Canny Lara-based harness racing conditioner Dean Braun has accepted for Friday night's $50,000 4YO Championship at Gloucester Park with both Mustang Mach and Night Of The Stars but remains in limbo with flights to Perth on standby only.
As a result, Mustang Mach remains a short priced favourite for Saturday night’s $25,000 Gordon Rothacker Memorial Championship Final while Night of The Stars is also fancied in the St Arnaud Sporting Club Pacing Cup at Tabcorp Park just one night earlier.
But while confusion reigns supreme ahead of a red-letter weekend of racing right throughout the nation, Braun is bullish that any outcome suits for his brace of burgeoning stars.
“We’re still on standby as we speak and to be honest I don’t know if it’s looking good or not,” the gifted conditioner said last night. “If we can get a plane we’ll go, but otherwise we’ll be racing here then trying to go again next week.
“Looking at where they’ve drawn in Perth (Mustang Mach has landed gate 8, Night Of The Stars 11) it might be better money-wise to race at home, but if we can get a flight we’ll definitely make the trip.”
Last weekend’s second-fastest GRMC heat winner, Mustang Mach has drawn barrier two for the inaugural edition of Tabcorp Park’s 1720-metre feature final and looks cherry ripe for pillar to post success.
While Night Of The Stars may face his stiffest opposition from outstanding stablemate Pacific Playgirl in St Arnaud’s $12,000 Cup if staying home this weekend ahead of a Golden Nugget/ McInerney Classic campaign in WA.
“All of mine have got super winning chances at home.” Braun declared. “Mustang Mach looks really hard to beat. Of course you’ve got to respect Glenn Douglas’ horse (Heza Trick), he’s the major danger I think, but my bloke’s got the strength to match his speed now so he’ll be tough to roll.
“The same goes with Friday night. Both horses are going to be in it up to their eyeballs. Night Of The Stars has really come on since his win at Melton and Pacific Playgirl is probably the best credentialed horse in the field.
“It’s tough to split them but they both should be figuring in the finish.”
HRV price assessor Bill Hutchison has Night Of The Stars a $2.60 popular elect for the fourth Choice Hotels Country Cup this season with Pacific Playgirl on the third line of betting at $7, while Mustang Mach is a prohibitive $1.40 favourite in his $25,000 feature on Friday night.
NAGAMBIE CHAMP A GIFT TO THE GAME
Australia’s most decorated squaregaiter,s Gift will make his return to racing in Saturday Night’s Glenferrie Farm Chris Howe Trotters Cup at Melton’s Tabcorp Park.
A nine-time Group 1 winner, quadruple Australian Trotting Grand Prix king and former Victorian Horse of the Year, Chris Lang’s teak tough son ofis a legend in his own lifetime.
And after four solid preliminaries to prepare him for a comeback to the track, the champion Nagambie gelding look set to kick off his 10-year-old term with success in the Group 3 feature for FFA performers this weekend.
“He’s had a few quiet trials and he’s there because all the big races are coming up and it’s time to get him racing,” the superstar’s caretaker conditioner Chris Lang Jr said this week.
“To be honest, we’re all looking forward to it. In a way we’re out to show the old guy’s still got it I suppose you could say.”
The equal oldest horse lining up in Saturday night’s $20,000 trotting feature,s Gift must contend with barrier 10 in his first outing since narrowly going down in July’s Cranbourne Trotters Cup.
But as a T36, TM31 pacer opposing mostly TM1 performers, Lang Jr is bullish that the evergreen son ofshould confirm his successful return to racing with a very forward showing this weekend.
And in doing so, set himself on the path to an even more storied place in the history of Australian harness racing by lining up for a fifth straight Australian Trotting Grand Prix success on December 17.
“If he (s Gift) doesn’t finish in the top three we’ll be pretty disappointed,” the young horseman asserted. “It is a very good race for him. He’s the richest and fastest trotter ever to set foot in Australia so if he can’t figure in the finish we’d have to wonder why.
“We’re not sure at this stage what the next step is after Saturday night but he’s headed for a fifth Grand Prix. That’s his main game this campaign and there’s no reason why he can’t do it all again.”
Recognised as a race in two betweens Gift and electric six-year-old Down Under Muscles, the Chris Howe Trotters Cup should provide an early insight into all of summer’s squaregaiting features.
Currently marked a $2.30 by HRV price assessor Bill Hutchison, team Lang’s dual Inter Dominion winner is narrowly shaded by Down Under Muscles ($2.10) ahead of the 2240-metre feature mobile trot.
by Jason BONNINGTON
JUSTICE SEEKS TO CONTINUE ROLLING AT TABCORP PARK
After landing the Quinella in last week’s feature at Tabcorp Park, John Justice is hoping to taste similar success this Friday night with runners engaged in both the St Arnaud Trotting and Pacing Cups.
Following a slick all the way win in The George Gath at Group 3 level, Retained will return to the track seeking a similar outcome in the Weir’s Supa IGA St Arnaud Trotters Cup.
The six-year-old has been assessed a 10 metre handicap that will see him off the back mark alongside five other hopefuls when the tapes drop at 8:40pm.
“I was a bit worried after he won,” Justice mused. “I mean it was a great result, but if he was give too big a handicap we might have given him the week off. Ten metres is as good as we could have expected in the circumstances.”
“I hope to be able to get through some of the early traffic and just see what happens. Hopefully he can replicate last week’s run.”
“He worked terrific on Tuesday and pulled up really well after the race. The run hasn’t taken anything out of him. He just needs a bit of luck and it will depend on how he gets through the field. (Barrier) 14 can be daunting.
Justice’s other main hope on the night is strapping eight-year-old Thats Mister Ali who lines up in the St Arnaud Sporting Club Pacing Cup at 9:40pm.
With six starts this term, Thats Mister Ali is yet to notch a win on the season but with three minor placings, Justice can sense a breakthrough coming.
“He’s had a lot of bad luck at Maryborough and Kilmore too, but I was most disappointed at Nyah where he did all the work and got run down.
“After the Maryborough Cup he had a cough for a few days but he seems to be over that now and is working well.
“He’s a very reliable stand start horse who is able to make up the handicap quickly. Hopefully he can land somewhere midfield and get a trail into it – or – do what he does from time to time and pull out and go on his own."
by Alistair HOGG